Caregiver Tips: How to Cope with Caregiving Demands
Use these 10 tips to make caring for your loved one easier
Caring for a loved one with a serious illness is a rewarding experience, but it can also be difficult at times. The new responsibilities may be unfamiliar to you and seem daunting, at least in the beginning. And despite our love, devotion, and good intentions, being a caregiver can be overwhelming and lonely. After you take a deep breath, read through our advice for family caregivers. We hope these tips will help make the caregiving experience more enjoyable both for you and your loved one.
Tips for making caregiving easier:
1. Reward yourself
Caregiving is not easy – in fact, it’s hard work. Make sure to give yourself frequent breaks. Trust me, it will make you feel better, and it will enable you to support your loved one more effectively. The last thing you want is to experience caregiver burnout.
2. Be mindful of your own feelings and needs
It’s normal for caregivers to become depressed as a result of their support for their sick loved one. Try to keep the blues away by taking time to relax, being social, keeping a journal, and/or spending time on your favorite hobby. If you notice any signs of depression, get help right away.
3. Accept help
When other family members or friends offer to help, take it! Your loved ones want to support you, so offer them specific tasks – like cooking a meal or picking up dry cleaning – that will make you feel less overwhelmed and anxious. It’s not easy to ask for help, but you may be surprised by the response you get from those who care about you and your needs. Most people want to help and are eager to be told exactly how they can pitch in.
4. Educate yourself
Do research on your loved one’s illness. Not only will you feel more confident in understanding what your loved one is going through and what you and your loved one may expect, you will also arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to act as your loved one’s advocate. Plus, the more you know, the less anxious you’ll feel in your new role.
5. Don’t do everything
Your loved one needs your support and care, but (in most cases) he or she does not need you to do everything. Try to encourage your loved one’s independence, for the sake of you both.
6. Trust your instincts
Many new caregivers worry that they will not be able to handle the responsibility that comes with caring for a loved one. Don’t worry! You know your loved one best. Listen to your gut (not in place of doctors, of course), and you should be just fine.
7. Take care of your body
In addition to rewarding yourself, make sure to take care of your body. Don’t neglect healthful eating and sleeping habits. Many caregivers do a lot of lifting – make sure to take the time to stretch regularly. Try a new relaxation technique, like guided imagery to help alleviate your stress. And take one to two 20-minute walks each day – this will help with your physical and mental health.
8. Seek out other caregivers
Caring for a loved one can be a lonely experience, but you are NOT alone. Seek out other caregivers with whom you can relate. The support you’ll receive from others who understand what you’re going through is invaluable.
9. Know your limits
None of us can do everything. It’s important that you’re realistic about the amount of time you can dedicate to caring for your loved one. Once you’ve determined this, set clear boundaries and communicate them to other caregivers and doctors.
10. Accept your feelings
Caregiving can result in a variety of feelings , including fear, anxiety, anger, resentment, and helplessness. First of all, you should know that all of these feelings are completely normal! Don’t judge yourself on any of these (or other) emotions. Accept your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up. I have found it’s helpful to focus on my love for the individual, as it puts all of my other feelings in perspective.
Do you have any other tips for new caregivers? I’d love to hear what was helpful for you in the comments area below.
Leah Yomtovian Roush is the Senior Manager of Strategic Development for Cleveland, Ohio-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. Leah is the editor of eFuneral's Online Resource Center, and she manages the company's marketing efforts and develops strategies for company growth. Leah also serves on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, helping them expand their reaches and increase their impacts.